Rec » Game of the Week

Wassup, Dog?

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Last week, the arrival of a package containing a half-dozen games from Washington-based game company SimplyFun was enough to briefly halt a workday as a crowd of hard-nosed journalists gathered around the new toys like a group of school kids who didn't know any better. Of the collection, the game pieces in Walk the Dogs—handfuls of inch-high standing plastic dogs described by the game's rules as "63 really, really cute dogs (in seven unique breeds)"—pleased us most for their potential as ornamental desk figurines. However, judging by the game's box, which sported the cartoon version of those "really, really cute dogs" with all tongues lolling from giant smiles, it was clear that non-adult experts would have to be consulted to correctly gauge the game's "fun-ness." And so several canine game pieces were rescued from a lifetime perched on various BW office shelves, tucked behind sword-wielding ninjas, and instead, went home for a test drive with the pint-sized experts. Not surprisingly, it was the cute little doggy pieces that created the most positive fuss with the younger audience as well.

Play begins with all 63 dogs randomly placed nose to tail in a single line. Each player's mission is to manipulate the cards they draw in order to create their own line of dogs, while also attempting to group dogs of the same breed when possible within the rules. Two factors keep things interesting: a dog leash card, which allows the player who draws it to steal a dog from another player, and a dog catcher card, which requires players with exposed lines of dog breeds to relinquish those dogs.

Our 11-year-old mistress of ceremonies easily guided not only two younger players but also two board-game-challenged adult players through the inaugural game with the aid of the instructions, which are simply written and clearly stated (unlike many infamously written instructions for more adult toys). Only one point in the instructions was about as clear as mud to the kids and adults alike, so a house rule was implemented to deal with the problem until the SimplyFun Web site could be consulted for further clarification. A second rule was usurped for a house rule after it proved monumentally unpopular more than one game in: rule number three, which states that the game is to be started by the player whose name begins with the letter closest to "D" (for "dog" and "duh"). For the remainder of the child judges panel, who were representatives of the letters "A" and "K," the fact that Mistress "C" was continually appointed as the first player was almost grounds for play termination.

In all, the adult portion of the judges panel decided the subtle strategy of the game was enough to tip the scales in favor of Walk the Dogs when given a choice between it and several others in the family game closet. The most impressive aspect of the game, according to one adult player, was the fact that even on a somewhat wobbly table situated on a sloping floor, those "63 really, really cute dogs (in seven unique breeds)" stayed mostly upright. The kids, however, had more criticism and more praise than the adults, saying: "I hate the name rule"; "It's fun and challenging because I can use my brain"; and "I hate this game, but I want to play again."

For information on hosting a SimplyFun party in your home, visit Simplyfun.com.

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